What is the Best Material for Bridge Strengthening?

To allow for traffic to continue along bridges, the deck, or surface of bridges is one of the only components that is universally shared among the radically differing designs of bridges standing around the world today.

Bridge decks can be supported in a number of different ways, such as through the suspension of high-tension cables or the use of steel section beams to support the decks, cantilevered from rigid elements. To ensure that these structures are capable of withstanding the weight and velocity of vehicles on its surface, multiple different types of materials are utilized within the superstructure.

Conventional bridge strengthening methods have often relied on structural steels to achieve this kind of physical support; however, fiberglass materials have emerged as a cost-effective alternative to traditional infrastructural materials.

bridge design

Bridge Strengthening: The Problems with Steel

Despite an oversupply of steel from certain sectors within the global market, the cost of steel has drastically increased over the last several years as a result of numerous factors including associated tariffs and higher labor charges. As a result of these higher costs, bridge-related maintenance jobs, such as bridge strengthening workers, have also become more expensive.

Although these upkeep costs have increased, the infrastructural maintenance of bridges cannot be neglected for the sake of budgeting, particularly in situations where bridges are often subject to corrosive elements such as those present in freshwater, saltwater and acidic rain.

Bridges exposed to these types of elements can often experience an overall reduction in the structural integrity of their strengthening elements, which ultimately contributes to recursive and costly maintenance processes.

The fabrication of steel bridge strengthening elements is not only expensive, but often requires inconvenient and invasive procedures to accomplish. Extended installation periods can disrupt traffic, with varied commercial or pedestrian impacts depending on the function of the bridge.

Fiberglass Bridge Strengthening Elements

Used for several decades as a structural alternative to conventional construction materials, fiberglass as a bridge strengthening and steel element replacement material has become an increasingly popular option. This is primarily a result of the numerous benefits associated with the use of fiberglass, some of which include its lightweight mechanical structure, as well as its exceptional corrosion resistant properties.

The efforts by Strongwell to increase the use of fiberglass has been associated with the potential of this material to improve civil infrastructure, as well as establish a broad range of fiberglass bridge strengthening components from superstructure decking to guard rails. These components include:-

  • FRP Bridge Girders: EXTREN DWB® is a lightweight and high strength bridge strengthening double web beam product that has been used as a replacement material for corroded steel sections that are present in existing beam bridges. The use of these girders has been found to significantly improve its weight capacity of bridges by 10-tons.
  • Stay-in-place Concrete Decking: GRIDFORMTM is a bridge deck system that is composed of two layers of pultruded fiberglass grating and an adhesively-bonded plate to improve the overall stability and resistance of bridge applications.
  • Fiberglass Planks: Both the SAFPLANK® and STRONGDEKTM are flanged FRP decking products that are specifically designed to interlock and create a single supported surface with little corrosion resistance and a seamless aesthetic for strengthening pedestrian bridges.
  • Heavy-duty FRP Panels: COMPSOLITE
  • Fiberglass Grating: Both the DURADEK® and DURAGRID® are pultruded FRP grating products that are equipped with customizable spaced bars. Both products are suitable for pedestrian bridge strengthening applications.
  • Structural FRP Support: The SAFSTRIP® is a mechanically fastened strip that is attached directly beneath the bridge deck and its structural beams. Herein, the SAFSTRIP® provides support to the bridge structure by increasing the flexural capacity of strengthening beams and struts.

Fiberglass Bridge Strengthening from Strongwell

Since 1956, Strongwell has remained a world-leading manufacturer of structural fiberglass products. The elements incorporated into Strongwell’s bridge strengthening products have been applied to numerous projects across the world, with increasing mechanical capacities, in an effort to promote the gradual replacement of steel elements in crucial infrastructural applications.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Strongwell Corporation.

For more information on this source, please visit Strongwell Corporation.

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